Pasarell’s look back on Andre Agassi’s first trip to the BNP Paribas Open

By Leighton Ginn

Former BNP Paribas Open owner and tournament director Charlie Pasarell said his mentor Pancho Gonzalez request an unknown 15-year-old get a wildcard. Without question or seeing the kid, Pasarell gave the kid a wildcard.

That kid happened to be Andre Agassi.

Agassi did well in the first round, beating John Austin, setting up a matchup against then No. 1 Mats Wilander.

Prior to the match, Wilander came into Pasarell’s office to ask what he knew about Agassi.

Pasarell didn’t know much, but suggest Wilander avoid his forehand.

When Pasarell went to watch the match, Wilander hit every shot to Agassi’s forehand, and won in dominating fashion, which Pasarell jokes about.

“Well that’s how much I know about the game of tennis,” Pasarell said laughing.

Because Agassi was an amateur, he couldn’t accept prize money. But Pasarell said made sure Agassi was properly compensated.

Agassi had put in his expenses as $300, but the prize money for reaching the second round was $1,000.

But Pasarell said he looked at Agassi’s expenses and thought there were things that were off, and made his corrections.

The story was later told differently by Agassi in his autobiography, “Open.”

Below is the full video of Pasarell talking about Agassi at the BNP Paribas Open.

Tough road for Williams sisters as BNP Paribas Open women’s draw announced

Serena Williams, seeded 10th, could open her BNP Paribas Open campaign against Victoria Azarenka in a rematch of the 2016 finals, and possibly face former No. 1 Garbine Muguruzu in the third round.

By Leighton Ginn

Serena Williams will have a tough road in the BNP Paribas Open with possible matchups against former No. 1 players in the world in her first two matches.

Her sister Venus won’t have much of a cake walk either.

The BNP Paribas Open announced its women’s draw on Monday, and the road to the title.

Serena, who won the BNP Paribas Open title in 1999 and 2001, is the 10th seed and will have bye in the first round. In the 96- player draw, the top 32 players have a first-round bye.

To open her tournament, Serena could face Victoria Azarena in a rematch of the 2016 final, which Azarenka won 6-4, 6-4. It’s also a match up of two of the more high-profile working mothers on the tour.

Azarenka will face Vera Lapko in the first-round.

If Serena gets past Azarenka, she could face former No. 1 Garbine Muguruza, who is seeded 20th.

Serena has a 3-2 record against Muguruza.

Muguruza won their last matchup, beating Serena 7-5, 6-4 in the 2016 French Open final to claim her first major title. Muguruza also claimed the 2017 Wimbledon title when she beat Venus Williams 7-5, 6-0.

Venus Williams is unseeded and will play a first-round match against the dangerous Andrea Petkovic. They have split their four career matches, with Petkovic beating Venus in the Stanford tournament in 2014,

If Venus survives her opening match, she will then have to face third-seed Petra Kvitova, who is coming off a finals appearance at the Australian Open.

A two-time Wimbledon champion, Kvitova has a 4-2 record over Venus.

Leighton Ginn, who has covered the BNP Paribas Open for two decades, will be working with iHub Radio during the tournament. iHub will be live from 1-3 p.m. weekdays. You can go to http://www.ihubradio.com to listen or find it on the Tune In app.

Roger Federer claims fifth BNP Paribas Open title, gets called a name on court after beating Stan Wawrinka

 

By Leighton Ginn

At the BNP Paribas Open, Roger Federer beat Stan Wawrinka to tie for most titles at the Indian Wells event, never dropped a set and dominated like he did in his 20s in his 6-4, 7-5 victory Sunday.

But the thing people might remember most from Federer’s fifth title at the BNP Paribas Open is one word that Wawrinka uttered during his speech.

Wawrinka was overcome with emotions, trying to fight off tears, only to see Federer laughing. So during his speech, he jokingly called Federer an asshole, which drew a big laugh from the fans and Federer.

“There’s not always cameras around, so I get called that sometimes,” Federer joked. “Quite often, actually. On the court is the first time, but it felt good.”

Everything felt good for Federer. Coming into the 2017 season, Federer had low expectations. He had missed six months of 2016 with a knee injury, and he didn’t know what kind of level he would be able to produce on the court.

But things went better than expected when he won the Australian Open title for his record 18th Grand Slam title.

With his title at the BNP Paribas Open, he tied Novak Djokovic as the winningest player in the tournament’s history with five.

“I’m not as surprised as I was in Australia, but still this comes as a big, big surprise to me, nevertheless, to win here again and beating the players that I did and the way I did,” said Federer, who beat Rafael Nadal in the fourth round and Jack Sock in the semifinals. “I mean, couldn’t be more happy.

“It’s an absolute, huge start to the year for me. Yeah, last year didn’t win any titles. I don’t think I was in any finals except maybe Brisbane last year.  The change is dramatic, and it feels great.”

One of the tournaments Federer had to miss last year was the BNP Paribas Open. Before that, he had been in the finals the previous two years, losing to Djokovic both times.

With the victory, Federer will move up four spots in the rankings to No. 6. He is well ahead of where he thought he would be during the offseason.

“The goal was to be top-eight by after Wimbledon. Because if I would have lost early in Australia, I would have dropped to 35 in the world,” Federer said. ” It was a good approach, I thought, because it gave me time to get there. … It’s great, but you definitely have to reassess your goals maybe now and see, ‘Where do you go from here?’ Because this was not part of the plan, to win Australia and Indian Wells, I can tell you that.

“Like I said before, I will make the plan for the remainder of the season after — especially for the clay after Miami, and then see also what the goals are, because the goals are clearly changing after this dream start.”

 

 

 

 

Is the glass half full or half empty for Novak Djokovic going into the US Open?

Novak Djokovic speaks during a press conference at the BNP Paribas Open in March, 2015.

Novak Djokovic speaks during a press conference at the BNP Paribas Open in March, 2015.

Another week, another final that slipped through No. 1 Novak Djokovic.

Heading into the US Open, is that a good thing or a bad thing?

Taking the good side, Djokovic played well to reach back-to-back finals in Masters Series, losing to Andy Murray in the Rogers Cup and Roger Federer on Sunday in Cincinnati. Obviously he’s playing well enough to reach the finals, beating a lot of top players.

Djokovic created momentum heading into the US Open with all those matches. And he’s won many despite not playing his best, by his own accounts.

But the bad side is that Djokovic hasn’t dominated the hard court season in the summer like he did in the spring. At the start of the year, he won the Australian Open, the BNP Paribas Open and Miami for a very impressive trifecta. By Djokovic’s high standards, he’s a little off.

Many have called Djokovic the best hard court player, but he has never won the title in Cincinnati despite five appearances in the finals. And in Flushing, Djokovic has been very good, but only has one US Open title, which came in 2011. He also reached the US Open finals in 2007, ’10, ’12, and ’13.

Prior to these two weeks, Djokovic looked like the head-and-shoulders favorite to win the US Open, coming off his Wimbledon title and his dominant spring. And with their victories, Federer and Murray look like much more dangerous contenders for the title than two weeks ago.

At 34, Federer has fought off father time to remain a serious contender. In Cincinnati, Federer used an aggressive attack, and his service game has been dominant. If he keeps that up, Federer will be tough to stop.

Murray, who had been struggling to regain his form since back surgery at the end of 2013, the year he won Wimbledon. While Murray hasn’t yet played as well as he did in 2013, he has been playing good enough to win a major, and his Rogers Cup title could give him enough confidence to get over the hump at the US Open.

So instead of looking like the clear favorite, Djokovic will now be in a three-man battle for the title. And there will be some dangerous floaters in the field, including Stan Wawrinka, Rafael Nadal and last year’s US Open finalists Kei Nishikori and defending champion Marin Cilic.

It should make for an exciting US Open.